LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lawyers for Michael Jackson filed the pop star’s 2002 will in court on Wednesday that puts his multimillion-dollar estate in a family trust for his three children and his mother, but were denied a bid to take immediate control of his music fortune.
Funeral plans remained undetermined, and Jackson’s family said in a statement that no public or private ceremony would be held at the singer’s Neverland Valley ranch in central California.
The will, signed in 2002, values Jackson’s estate at more than $500 million and puts his assets in the Michael Jackson Family Trust, which ultimately benefits his three children, his mother and unnamed charities.
The will names Jackson’s mother, Katherine, 79, as guardian of the children: Prince Michael Jackson Jr. 12, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11, and Prince Michael Joseph Jackson, II, 7. If she cannot fulfill the guardianship duties, pop singer Diana Ross, formerly of the Supremes and a long-time Jackson friend, is nominated to be guardian of the children.
The five-page document said “I have intentionally omitted to provide for my former wife, Deborah Rowe Jackson.”
On Monday, before the will was filed, Katherine Jackson was named temporary guardian of the children and administrator of the estate by a Los Angeles court until a hearing on July 6.
The 2002 document names Los Angeles-based attorney John Branca, a long-time Jackson lawyer, and music industry executive John McClain as co-executors. A third co-executor named in the will has since resigned.
Lawyers for Branca and McClain asked a judge on Wednesday to immediately appoint them executors and overturn Katherine Jackson’s temporary administration of the estate, but the judge denied their request.
“I understand your argument that there was a race to the court house. It seems to me that we should know by Monday if there’s another will out there,”‘ said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff.
Since his death last week, speculation has run rampant that there would be multiple wills and a legal battle over Jackson’s estate, which includes part ownership in a Beatles music catalog and Jackson’s own music company.
Jackson was said to be $500 million in debt when he died, but his assets have been reported to be worth as much as $1 billion, which would roughly approximate the will’s estimated value of Jackson’s estate that “exceeds $500 million.”
But immediately unclear is whether Branca and McClain based the value of the estate in the will at the time of the singer’s death in 2002 or in current, 2009 dollars.
That value could rise over time if his popularity in death grows, as with other entertainers like Elvis Presley. Jackson remains among the best-selling pop stars ever, and his 1982 hit “Thriller” is the top-selling album of all time.
Attorney David Seeley, general counsel for the Marlon Brando Living Trust, said people came “out of the woodwork making all sorts of claims” after the legendary actor died.
“I assume that there will be all sorts of claims with Michael Jackson as well, due to the nature of his celebrity, and the amount of people that were around and the amount of money that’s involved,” Seeley said.
Already one person has surfaced. London resident Nona Paris Lola A. Jackson filed a petition in a Los Angeles court Wednesday saying she was Jackson’s wife and his estate and kids should belong to her. Her past claims have been widely dismissed by legal experts and others, who have said there was no evidence she ever had a relationship with the pop star.
Meanwhile, Jackson’s family issued a statement that refuted speculation of a funeral at Neverland, which is located near Santa Barbara, California, about a four-hour drive from Los Angeles.
“Contrary to previous news reports, the Jackson family is officially stating there will be no public or private viewing at Neverland,” the statement said.
Other reports surfaced citing plans for a public memorial service and private family funeral at various locations around Los Angeles, but none could be confirmed and spokespersons for Jackson’s family did not return calls or e-mails for comment.
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb, Editing by Sandra Maler